Letter from the Editor: Universal Design
When I attended the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS 2009) last month, I was on a mission. It was a vastly different mission than the one I had diligently planned for: trend sighting, new product demos and taking in all the fabulous new designs, seminars and parties (yes that’s work too -research and product debuts are part and parcel of event fetes). My new mission was to find safe, attractive, functional and innovative assistive devices that would fit with Universal Design principles.
My father had suffered a heart attack in April and underwent heart surgery just weeks before KBIS 2009. After the traumatic surgery, and a week in the hospital my father was discharged into my care. He and my mother had decided the best venue for a full recovery would be to recuperate at my home.
My husband and I rapidly learned that our home was in no way friendly to my father in the condition he was in. Doorways too narrow for him to walk through with assistance (as he was too weak the first week); steps jutting out of the ground impeding his climb into the house, toilets too low to reach and then to get back up; Walk-in shower with a tiny step-over (easily maneuverable for the able-bodied-a difficult challenge for a sixty year-old with both legs sporting 5 to 6 inch long and deep incisions); Shower-head too far overhead to configure (stretching is not an option for weeks until the sternum heals); and the list of obstacles that had appeared before us went on and on. Our once hospitable home now seemed to have morphed into a nightmare.
Planning and designing to Universal Design standards means meeting the needs of as many home users as possible regardless of age and/or physical attributes such as height or ability. In the past I had written about Universal Design with regards to kitchen remodeling, and I had plans for our new home to be built with Universal Design in mind. Of course, as is often cited…the best laid plans fall victim to reality. Our Universal Designed home will be a few years out but my life circumstances dictated that I make my home a friendly and more importantly a safe haven for my father – and fast. Off to the local pharmacy, Bed, Bath and Beyond and Wal-Mart for assistive devices. In a matter of 24 hours we had the bathroom and bedroom retrofitted to meet the new challenges my dad now faced.
As the weeks passed he gained his strength and lessened his reliance on the assistive devices. I, however, refused to let time diminish the lesson that was lurking in my home and the home of my parents’ and to be honest – I think in many homes. The lesson that our havens may not always be “home sweet home” if and when we are confronted with a debilitating illness, disability or one or more of the various physical challenges we may encounter as we age.
While at KBIS 2009, and with a new focus on (universal) design, I found amazing people and companies (who are working hard to make design accessible to all) and products (that are designed to make life easier for EVERYONE at all stages of life) all of which I am very excited to share with you.
The articles “Universal Design: Kitchen” and “Universal Design:Bathroom” will publish June 9th and June 12th respectively.
Carmen M. Natschke
Editor, The Decorating Diva LLC (thedecoratingdiva.com)
Coming up: Week of June 22nd: Top Kitchen and Bath experts share their advice, tips and insights into kitchen and bath trends for 2009. Follow us on Twitter (The Decorating Diva on Twitter) and you’ll never miss an update.
The Decorating Diva is a luxury home design magazine and lifestyle journal dedicated to the concept of living a stylish and comfortably elegant life at home – joyfully surrounded by the beautiful things you love. Join, Carmen, The Decorating Diva’s founder, as she blogs about sophisticated, smart, stylish and beautiful decor for your home and shares her decorating and style advice with you. Follow her and several of our wonderful contributors on inspirational design trips as they explore enchanted lands both far and near – returning with a delightful treasure trove of design finds for your home.